Calgary

Calgary's failed Amazon bid shows province must step up, post-secondary schools say

Pressure is mounting on the provincial government to help Calgary's post-secondary institutions produce more grads for the tech sector in light of the failed bid to entice Amazon to build its second headquarters in the city.

Amazon noted lack of tech talent in Calgary and it's going to get worse, MRU professsor says

Calgary's unsuccessful bid to become Amazon's second headquarters will nonetheless be instructive for future attempts to lure big companies to Calgary, provincial officials say. (David Horemans/CBC)

Pressure is mounting on the provincial government to help Calgary's post-secondary institutions produce more grads for the tech sector in light of the failed bid to entice Amazon to build its second headquarters in the city.

Amazon told Calgary officials it didn't make the 20-city short list because of a gap in the local talent pool.

Alan Fedoruk, who chairs the department of mathematics and computing at Mount Royal University, says the demand in Alberta's tech sector has been on his radar for some time.

"By 2023, you're looking at a shortfall of 1,200 positions — that's for programmers, database analysts, software engineers. So that's big."

Fedoruk says for every student accepted, up to five qualified applicants are turned away.

"We're getting strong pressure on our programs, and our graduates are out there getting good jobs. And from our analysis, we could be having more of them out there and they would still be getting jobs," he said.

'We're at capacity now'

To make a dent in that, Fedoruk says MRU would need provincial help.

"We're at capacity now and doing as much as we can, so we would need more resources to grow our programs."

The University of Calgary says it has almost doubled its intake of computer science undergrads in recent years.

And the university is looking at whether it needs to move money from one department to another, or possibly ask for more provincial funding.

Premier Rachel Notley says it's on her radar, too.

"We have every intention of sitting down with our post-secondary folks and reviewing the decision and looking at whether there's anything we can do to support a more effective direction there."

Earlier this week, the British Columbia government announced 2,900 new spaces in tech programs at post-secondary institutions in that province.

In a statement emailed to CBC News, a spokesperson for Alberta's department of Economic Development and Trade said the work done for the Calgary bid will help Alberta prepare for future investment attraction and business expansion opportunities.

"Calgary already has Canada's youngest and best-educated workforce — it also has the highest concentration of international headquarters," said Jean-Marc Prevost.

"Through this process we're learning more about the type of talent we need to continue leading as we build an economy for the future. Alberta industry works with our universities and colleges to help ensure we provide students the training they need to meet job market demands."

With files from Jennifer Lee